Nozick on theories of punishment

I am reblogging part 19 of my in-depth review of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (ASU). The post below covers the fourth subsection of Chapter 4 of ASU (pp. 59-63). Here, Nozick presents an extended digression into retributive and deterrence models of punishment and identifies some problems with both models. (Either way, Nozick’s central question is still left answered: should wrongful acts be prohibited, i.e. punished as crimes, or should they be punished as torts, i.e. allowed so long as compensation is paid to the victim?)

prior probability

We are now ready to resume our review of Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The fourth subsection of Chapter 4 (pp. 59-63) contains an extended digression into retributive and deterrence theories of punishment. Nozick takes a probabilistic approach to punishment (pp. 59-60), an approach which is music to our ears: “A person’s option of crossing a [moral] boundary is constituted by a (1 – p) chance of gain G from the [wrongful] act, where p is the probability he is apprehended, combined with the probability p of paying various costs of the act [if caught].” According to Nozick (p. 60), these costs include C, the payment of compensation to the victim; D, the emotional costs to the wrongdoer of being caught and tried; and E, the financial costs of getting caught and going to trial. As Nozick notes (p. 60): “Prospects for deterrence look dim if…

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About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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